Island Health taking over seniors home-care services on southern Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands

Island Health taking over seniors home-care services on southern Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands

Island Health will become the sole public provider of home care on Vancouver Island in the fall. (Pixabay)

Island Health will become the sole public provider of home care on Vancouver Island in the fall. (Pixabay)

Island Health will be taking over publicly-funded funded home support services on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands starting in the fall.

Home support services in those areas are currently provided by Beacon Community Services, a private non-profit community organization.

Island Health said the change will ensure a consistent approach to implement [the] government’s team-based primary and community care model across the health authority.

“We have an immediate need to revitalize community health services across our entire health authority to improve access and service quality, and to meet government’s objectives of team-based primary and community care,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health President and CEO.

“The benefits of team-based care – improved health outcomes and better patient and care provider experience – require us to take a different approach to care delivery than in the past.”

The transition of home support services will occur on Oct. 31. Island Health’s current agreement with Beacon Community Services is scheduled to end this year. On an average day, Beacon Community Services coordinates 3,000 home support visits to approximately 2,600 clients. Beginning November 1, 2019, Island Health will schedule and deliver home support services to these clients and those who begin receiving services from Beacon over the intervening months.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with Island Health to ensure a smooth and seamless transition,” Bob Boulter, CEO of Beacon Community Services, said in a statement.

“Island Health already directly delivers home support services on the Central and North Island. Shifting South Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands services in-house should support streamlining and enhancing the efficient use of resources, technologies and systems, as well as an expansion of the community neighbourhood team model across the health authority.”

Boulter said Beacon will continue running its other services and programs and will continue to contract with Island Health for dementia housing and respite care.

There are no job losses or wage changes expected. Beacon Community Services staff affected by the change will be offered an opportunity to join the Island Health team. They will remain part of the same union

Beacon Community Services and Island Health will have teams to help clients and families transition.

“Clients will benefit from a more responsive, client-centred service delivery redesign capable of meeting the real-time changing needs of increasingly frail clients. This will support improved health outcomes, increased home support visits, consistent care delivery and enhanced care experiences,” Island Health stated in a release.

The BC Care Providers Association is criticizing the decision, saying the changes will only drive up the cost of support and complicate the staffing shortage crisis.

“What we’ve heard from seniors is that they want more services and longer visit times, and today’s B.C. government decision does nothing to address this,” BCCPA CEO Daniel Fontaine said in a statement. “Seniors are seeking extra help with their daily needs, such as getting a cup of tea, doing their laundry, or help with medications.”

Fontaine said the association has heard their staff does not want to work for the government.

“This decision to bring them back into government-run operations is fraught with risks, and makes no practical sense from the standpoint of seniors,” Fontaine said. “We are asking ourselves what is the government’s next move? Will the next move be to take over publicly-funded long-term care or even child care services?”

Fontaine said there was a lack of consultation with the sector.

“This decision does not appear to be evidence-based, and apparently involved no consultation at all with seniors. So, we can only surmise that the biggest winners today are the BC NDP’s donors, who have long fought for ending the involvement of non-government agencies being involved in care,” Fontaine said.

“What’s doubly shocking is that the BC Ombudsperson has been calling for a full assessment of B.C.’s home support program since 2012, and that work is yet to be done seven years later. That such a review would not be completed before a decision of this magnitude was made, despite the recommendation of the Ombudsperson, should be a concern to our seniors and their family members.”

The association wants the change to be put on hold, and for the NDP government and the BC Green Party caucus to commit to a consultation with the home-support sector.

Home-care support is already handled by Island Health employees north of the Malahat.


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